Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Robert Reich Wants to Bring Democracy to America

When I watch the demonstrations in Egypt and the furor the people have over their three decades of stagnant economy and politics, I'm brought to think of the US and Robert Reich's cry for a new distributive justice for Americans.

Here's bit from his latest post:
My proposal to raise the marginal tax to 70 percent on incomes over $15 million, to 60 percent on incomes between $5 million and $15 million, and to 50 percent on incomes between $500,000 and $5 million, has generated considerable debate. Some progressives think it’s pie-in-the-sky. Here, for example, is Andrew Leonard, a staff writer for Salon:
A 70 percent tax bracket for the richest Americans is pure fantasy – even suggesting it represents such a fundamental disconnect with the world as it exists today that it is hard to see why it should be taken seriously. I would be deeply worried about the sanity of a Democratic president who proposed such a thing.
Fantasy? I don’t know Mr. Leonard’s age but perhaps he could be forgiven for not recalling that between the late 1940s and 1980 America’s highest marginal rate averaged above 70 percent. Under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Not until the 1980s did Ronald Reagan slash it to 28 percent.

Incidentally, during these years the nation’s pre-tax income was far less concentrated at the top than it is now. In the mid-1970s, for example, the top 1 percent got around 9 percent of total income. By 2007, they got 23.5 percent. So if anything, the argument for a higher marginal tax should be even more realistic now than it was during the days when it was taken for granted.

A disconnect with the world as it exists today? That’s exactly the point of proposing it. For years progressives have whined that Democratic presidents (Clinton, followed by Obama) compromise with Republicans while Republican presidents (Reagan through W) stand their ground – with the result that the center of political debate has moved steadily rightward. That’s the reason the world exists the way it does today. Isn’t it about time progressives had the courage of our conviction and got behind what we believe in, in the hope of moving the debate back to where it was?
There is much more, go read the whole post.

When I see Obama put forward a budget with calls for cuts in the discretionary part of the budget because "times are tough" while at the same time the wealthy in America are far more wealthy than they have been before and making oodles more hand over fist, I'm perplexed. How can a rich country be so poor?

Ah... it is poor because those who have want more and they way they will get it by making sure that those who have less have far less than the little they have now. Cut programs to assist the impoverished because times are tough! But why weren't those "tough times" in evidence just two months ago when the full throated yell of the right was that tough times called for "no new tax" which meant that the billionaires and millionaires could keep their budget-busting Bush tax cuts?

Funny message: times are tough, so the poor have to tighten their belts. But times are tough so you dare not remove the tax cuts from the rich because they are the last bulwark between the current tough times and the complete apocalypse of a world destroyed by "high taxes"! Yes... just like those apocalyptic 1950s and 1960s where the the economy grew year after year and people felt better and all things seemed possible, even a shot at sending a man to the moon!

I watch America in the stranglehold of an ideological debate that has wandered so far from the facts that I'm dumbfounded. The Egyptians have been in the street protesting to overthrow 30 years of cruel misrule, but nobody in the US seems to notice that the past 30 years of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama era has been a 30 year reign of misrule in which the rich got astronomically rich while the poor were told they should tighten their belts, get ready to work until they are 75, accept that the government can't afford handouts to the sick, the incompetent, or the lost. It has been 30 years of even more extreme ideological regimen but the Americans have not yet gone to the streets. When will they?

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